Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Peter Paul Rubens

Sir Peter Paul Rubens born June 28, 1577 –May 30, 1640) was a prolific seventeenth-century Flemish Baroque painter, who combined Flemish technique with classical based renaissance themes. Rubens established a studio, where artists would collaborate on artworks. Most notable of his students is Anthony Van Dyke and Frans Snyders. Rubens would draft drawings of elaborate genre and religious scenes, and his students would paint large portions of it. Work can be categorized into those painted by Rubens himself, those which he painted in part (mainly hands and faces), and those he only supervised.
self portrait
Rubens should be considered an illustrator and a fine artist. He worked mostly for clients, such as the nobility and church. Rubens used the production of prints and book title-pages, to extend his fame throughout Europe during this part of his career. Rubens established copyright for his prints. Most significantly in Holland, where his work was widely copied through print. In addition he established copyrights for his work in England, France and Spain.The fall of the damned

Rubens gigantic paintings include dozens of figures contorted in dynamic rhythmic poses.
Rubens was a baroque painter, inspired by the Italian greats such as Michelangelo, Titian and Caravaggio.

Helene Fourment in her wedding Dress
Dressed in a gigantic dress, Helene looks gazingly at the viewer. She sits on the edge of her chair, round faced and soft skinned, at ease. Rubens painted full figured women, fleshy and large. His Women often having seemingly small heads. Critics point out that his women look startlingly similar. This is especially evident in the Rape of the daughters of Leucippus.
From Rubens perspective, painting women allowed him to portray his own feminine ideal:

Rubens men are also astonishingly large to unnatural proportions. His paintings of gods serve as models for idealistically exaggerated beings.
The drunken silenus
Silenus staggers drunk, a hunk of a man, heavy set, overweight but muscular. His back leg strides against the ground, his figure caught in motion. Rubens had a brilliant knack for rhythmic composition. The heads of the figures leave an arc down to the figures composed on the ground.

What makes Rubens paintings so spectacular? Besides the staggeringly incredible painterly technique, Rubens paintings are spectacular because they are intense, vigorous, living compositions that are filled by incredible beings. They portray immaculate dramas, intensely populated and dynamic, the characters in his paintings are not stiff or dull in any sense. They are engaged, in motion, expressing themselves in a way that seems believable but larger than life.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Alex Kanevsky

I have been a long time admirer of Alex Kanevsky’s work because of his gutsy painting approach and figurative subject matter.
Kanevsky describes his technique and final painting as a process of finding the right notes on each layer. He writes “So I work fast, trying to hit the right note every time. That is nearly impossible, so I constantly fail. But I keep coming back to a painting. It accumulates layers, each one - more or lass a complete painting. Complete but failed. The layers are sort of like Swiss cheese - they have holes through which in right places you can see the previous layers. Eventually there are enough of "good holes" and also, because of all the repeated attempts, I manage to do a good top layer. And then I have a painting that has enough intensity in every passage to satisfy me. Then it is done.”

You can see from his progression photos on his website the technique he describes. Each layer is a finished painting in its own right, though through the artist’s eye it is not entirely satisfying. Here are progress images from his work titled “ Blue Bathroom”

All the steps can be seen here http://www.somepaintings.net/2009/ACprogress/index.htm

Each layer has its own life force, its strengths and flaws, its own decisions and thoughts.
He writes “They are in some ways diaries of their own creation.”

I am still unsure what makes Alex Kanevsky's paintings so visually appealing and delightful on the eye. I think it is the combination of a unique approach and the authority that captures his subjects in a raw subjective manner.
The bride is a supreme example of Alex Kanevsky’s painting skill.

A woman kneels on a bed wearing a wedding dress with a haunting expression, her eyes lost in the shadow of her face.
Alex Kanevsky’s figures appear somehow trapped against their backgrounds, blended in amongst the shadows, sometimes disappearing among the colour.

Alex Kanevsky’s website
Interviews :

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A common compliment given to artists is that their paintings look like photographs. Many artists, myself included, find this offensive in some way. Should a painting exist if its function is simply to reproduce in the most realistic way the effects of a camera lens?

Realism and realist art has long suffered from criticisms that it is outdated and inefficient in comparison to photos. Traditionalist realist art has suffered under the tight grip of modern art for the past century, and while this has broadened art in unforeseeable directions, the traditions and practices of the past have almost been lost.

What separates a photo from a realistic painting?

Jacon Collins : Candace Profile 2004

Realism can be separated into many movements and styles
Below is a list of some fields of realism which will be discussed in my study
• Realism (arts), the depiction of subjects as they appear in everyday life
• Realism (visual arts), a style of painting that depicts what the eye can see
• Classical Realism, an artistic movement in late 20th Century that valued beauty and artistic skill
• Hyperrealism (painting), a genre of painting that resembles high resolution photography
• Photorealism, a genre of painting that resembles photography
• Social realism, an artistic movement which depicts working class activities

In his criticism of abstraction Fred Ross writes “ As ARC Founder Brian Yoder has put it elsewhere, art fictionalizes reality. The artist takes elements of reality and rearranges them in such a way that he makes perceivable an idea, a concept, an impression of the world. In other words, it is the artist, a human being, who is doing the selecting - not nature and not chance.”

The nature of reality and its representation is a broad topic with many conflicting answers. During the following months I wish to discuss some of these facets of realism using figure painting as the vehicle with which to analyze.